Having the faith to lose

Philadelphia - November 6, 2008

"I feel lighter on the inside and on the outside," she said. The secret to her success, she said comes from above.

Five years ago Jackie weighed 245 pounds and was desperate to lose weight. She had tried before but always failed until she joined 'Light Weigh.' It's a weight loss program based on the Catholic faith. Each week, her group discusses readings in the Bible, relating them to their own lives and struggles.

Suzanne Fowler founded Light Weigh to help herself. Like so many others, she was an emotional eater.

"I was a stress eater, I was a relaxation eater, a happy eater," she said, adding "I felt powerless around food."

But Fowler took lessons from the Bible about overcoming temptation. They helped her lose 47 pounds in a year. Her program focuses on portion control, helping people find comfort in their faith, not food. Fran Hovis also lost weight on Light Weight- 42 pounds. Nancy Forest lost 25 pounds. "I've never had the peace with food that I have now," Forest said.

Halgash said, "You bring God into your eating in a very personal way."

But can faith really help you lose weight? Dr. Gary Foster, director of Temple University's Obesity Center said faith won't help everyone, but it can help especially with emotional eating.

"A lot of emotional eating is from a sense of emptiness, sometimes a lack of purpose and if your faith gives you a sense of being a part of something bigger and less focused on yourself, I think that can be really helpful," he said.

And faith is also helping Stephanie Mitchell, a principal at a Philadelphia Middle School. She used her faith in a different way to get healthy. She belongs to Christ Haven Pentecostal Church. A few years ago she and her friend, art teacher Charlene Francisco prayed and planned to lose weight together.

"I said we will do it together so you'll have someone," Mitchell said.

But minutes after talking about their plan to lose weight, Charlene suffered a stroke. "By the time I got to the classroom, they had gotten the children out and she was sitting in a chair, her head was back, her eyes were back," Mitchell said.

Charlene died days later. "I was kind of well got a little depressed for a while I was just eating everything that wasn't nailed down," Mitchell said.

She gained 35 pounds. Then she said she got a message from God telling her to get healthy. Her pastor believes it.

"We are taught through the word that our body is in fact the temple of God and we should not defile it in any way," Bishop William Todd said.

So Mitchell joined SIS Fitness in Olney and so far has lost 25 pounds. She believes the Lord and her friend are watching over her. "She would be excited because we would have done it together," Mitchell said.

Dr. Foster said faith alone won't magically melt away pounds, like Stephanie Mitchell and Jackie Halgash, you still have to do the work.

"I pedal the bike but God's got the handlebars," Jackie said.

There are several organized programs for faith-based weight loss. For more information on the programs or for SIS Fitness, click on the links below.

SIS Fitness

SIS Sisters in Shape

Light Weigh

Bod 4 God Wilmington, Delaware location: 302-478-1638

Church Body Makeover

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